JDCC09: Content in Education: Open educational resources

Open Educational Resources (OERs) are learning materials that are specifically designed to be shared, with learners and teachers in mind. The ways in which JISC is helping to make it easier to create and share OERs and how the Open University is leading the way in the use of OERs was the focus of this session, led by Amber Thomas, programme manager of the JISC OER programme, JISC, Andy Lane, director of OpenLearn, Open University, and Peter Burnhill, from JORUM.

Amber kicked off with a brief history of OERs.  Over the last 10 years the push has been from holding material privately to more sharing inside institutions. Around 2001-3 there was a lot of talk about content packaging and reusing and the language was about learning objects and repackagaing – taking more of an organisational approach and tutors sharing their materials and resources. The focus was on workflows from creation to curation. Then along came web 2.0 and a different environment where people mix and match the huge range of services, along with creative commons licences and  a change in what you do with content online. Now the focus is on discovery to delivery workflow. The OECD report 2007 was the landmark report into a worldwide approach into OERs.

Amber pointed to three dimensions of openness:

  • social (open access)
  • technical (open formats)
  • legal (open licensed)

and commented that it is not just about openness within formal education but, through projects like Wikipedia and Wikiversity, also making content available to the general public.

OER Pilot Programme

The OER Pilot Programme is funded by Hefce and run by the HE academy and JISC. It has three strands – subjects, institutions and individuals – and a crucial element is  synthesising and evaluating what is happening.

There are 30 pilot projects in total with over 80 institutions involved and the aim to release a significant amount of resources openly; prompt change and clarity; adapt processes and policies; act as a pilot to inform design of next phase.

Technical requirements have been kept quite minimal – there is no single platform or metadata profile. Projects must publish by open institutional repositories; and or web 2.0 and or other channels. However, there is a mandated metatdata tag: UKOER

According to Amber, the key point is that it is about releasing existing content, enabling culture change and making it sustainable; providing support from experts in the sector on IPR, accessibility

“There are no easy answers as some of this is new – that’s why it’s a pilot,” said. “We are looking for bold, innovative experimentation, and we will see a variety of platforms and approaches.”

One of these approaches was next described by Andy Lane, director of OpenLearn at the Open University.

Promoting the view that “content is content – it is not about giving away the family silver,” he set out some of the reasons why the OU decided that it is worth making content open. These include:

  • It is consistent with university’s commitment to social justice and widening participation
  • It can be a way of building markets and reputation
  • It can be a testbed for new developments
  • It is a way to learn more about the university’s own business model
  • It can be a way of drawing materials from other organisations
  • It can provide basis for world-wide collaborations

He mentioned that there was institutional buy-in from day one, which made a great difference. A feasibility report was agreed mid 2005 to undertake a pilot project, of which the major aims were:

  • enhanced learning experiences for users of open content (self study content plus open learning environment)
  • greater involvement in HE by under-represented groups
  • enhanced knowledge and understanding of open content delivery, how it can be effective (research and evaluation a big element)

The results are impressive. OpenLearn, as LabSpace and LearningSpace, have seen 5m browsing visitors since launch October 2006, while there are 100,000 registered users. A browsing visitor can see nearly everything while registration is needed to post on forums or use tools). Content is accessed and used online, added to online, referred to from another VLE or website; taken away and used elsewhere. It is available in a number of different formats from print and zip file to Moodle Backup. It is also available as an  RSS feed which can be used to pull it into other platforms such as a WordPress blog.

Andy offered some examples of how OpenLearn is supporting widening collaboration, including introducing black and ethinic minority students to learning; providing learning to offenders at 15 prisons; and developing thinking skills for Openings students; partnerships with UnionLearn and NIACE. There are also partnership activities, such as with Sussex Lifelong Learning; University of the Third Age; microsites for Wales and Scotland, and international activities including an OCW consortium and informal partnerships such as TESSA (Teacher Education on Sub Saharan Africa)

In conclusion, Andy said that:

  • OERs attract people because they can do something with them
  • many people want more than just the content
  • OERs have been assessed against the OU’s own mission and strategic priorities
  • OpenLearn has been run as an active research project
  • Educators need strong commitment and continued support
  • Being involved in networks has been important
  • OER work needs to align with both day to day and longer term activities
  • There is the possibility of exploring new business models – advertising, value added services, disaggregated services?

With little time left to run in this shortened session, Peter Burnhill then gave a whirlwind tour of Jorum.

Unusually, Jorum is not an acronym (etymological origins include ‘drinking vessel’) and it began as a keep-safe commissioned and grant-funded by JISC for content developed as output from UK publicly-funded projects.

It launched in 2006 as a repurposed JISC national repository and has 3,300 resources, 6,500 registered users at 320 universities and colleges. It is now being adapted for ‘open sharing’ and a catalyst for effective collaboration between learning technologists and tutors, JISC and the community of use it serves, EDINA and MIMAS.

Jorum is going open access with lots of new, open content to be available via Jorum. The key targets for reshaping Jorum are:

  • community bay and OER deposit too
  • deploy Dspace alongside Intralibrary
  • Customised Dspace used by Jorum team
  • Service preparation, autumn 2009-06-30
  • Ready to launch Jan 2010

With the reshaping, Jorum will become:

  • a place for sharing learning and teaching materials
  • a place for finding learning and teaching materials
  • a place to come and exchange views and tools

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